Just a quick commentary about character sheets
Last night we got this response in another discussion:
Javier García Now that you talk about all this, I was always curious to see how the game was played in the Twin Cities. I've seen several character sheets on your page and they don't anything to do with what later became D&D. I think you use two six-sided dice to beat your score in a determined skill in order to succeed at using it, right? And there were many skills in those sheets, i. e. 'Brains' in the same list as 'Woodcutting'!
This is actually a really interesting question.
First off, all these character sheets everything to do with D&D. Since we came on the scene about 5 years ago, we've found some interesting artifacts that reveal a path of invention. And different researchers are posing different ideas. Michael Wittig has probably spent the most time studying stats exclusively and posted several discussions about it on ODD74.
Here is just one of these debates:
We won't go into the details because the subject is huge.
Here is a rough break down:
-Some people will want to examine the issue via the semantic meaning of the words used for early stats.
-Others will try to corollate it to how the mechanics work.
-Some doubt that the stats are even used as mechanics in the game.
We spoke with Jon Peterson at Gary Con, and he told us that he thought these stats were being derived from the English war game campaign of Hyborea. (sp?) You can find information on that in Jon's book: Playing at the World.
We're inclined to agree with Jon. But we've never actually seen anything from Hyborea; well, just what is published in Jon's book. Without entire sets of documents, we can't begin to state our perspective.
Where we would likely differ with Jon is on the interpretation. Jon is a very hard analyzer, we are looser and use other sources like interviews in order to gain understanding. Different tools render different results -- the differences lead to good science!
Consider that Paleoanthropologists argue endlessly about how to organize all the different skeleton types they find; and whether one hominid is merely a variance of the same kind, or an entirely new species. They call this theoretical split: Lumpers and Splitters. These differences in opinion are common with all RPG game research as well; it's good to know both sides of these things in order to form your own theories.
We feel the application of stats is changing, so even if Arneson is using someone else's concept, he is turning it on its head and will continue to do so in Blackmoor. Arneson does this with just about everything he gets his hands on. The Alternate Combat System is another good example of Arneson appropriating, yet changing, the way it is used.
There is no proof Hyborea was being played as an RPG, whereas the verbal narrative from the Twin Cities players supports theories that nearly everything they do becomes a role playing game. Worth knowing is that Arneson's 1st Napoleonic Mega-campaign begins with a Braunstein game set in Paris. Comments about this campaign appear as early as 1971. yet as you can see in the sample we provide, the campaign is already 14 months old! (COTT 4th volume, what we call 3b, January 1971)
We feel that Arneson's character event reports in Corner of the Table Top support the theory that Arneson is using the SRCS stats to roll for random events such as illness and the births of royal family members.
It is well documented that everything was being done, for the most part, with 2d6 dice. But we also know Arneson had 6 sets of percentile dice in 1971. As a side note, we have very old examples of Blackmoor rules that have percentages in them.
Yet dice can be tricky!
Percentiles now come numbered as 1 through 20 to create true twenty sided dice, or D20's The early dice are numbered 0 through 9 twice. These are best notated as D 0-9/0-9. These were used either as pairs for rolling percentiles, or in conjunction with a d6 to determine a 1-20 range.
At the same time, the Twin Cities players had some hefty mathematicians in their group. They could combine number rolls on 2d6 in order to create percentage odds, and we know that they did do this a lot. The oral history reveals that many of these guys could calculate combat results faster than Wesely's combat computer could, just by doing it in their heads.
Without digging up all the quotes (Maybe someone else feels like finding them), Arneson intended for stats to be part of the mechanics. We now have evidence of this, that we will be revealing later via Daniel Bogg's, Hidden in Shadows blog. He definitely stated that he had tried using skills and stats early on. Well, he goes on to talk about spell points too, but that is for another discussion. These grew into huge lists as can be seen in the Megarry Character Matrix.
Everything from Strength to Horsemanship is in there. And it doesn't seem like the players see these stats and skills as being differentiated. It's just their stack of abilities. So at this point in time, it's important to understand that stats and skills are not two different things.
Seeing how they are all identical, especially on the Megarry sheets, as far as values from 2-12, indicates that Javier's comment about stats being used to test with, seems like a reasonable assumption. It is a quandary that this mechanic is dropped in OD&D. It seems clear that Dave and Gary were diverging in how they were wanting to design OD&D. Arneson even stated that he was not perfectly happy with the final design.
Well, this discussion leaves a lot to be answered. Feel free to ruminate and propose your own ideas on character stats. We're curious to hear your ideas.
Leave a Reply.
DVD'S, BLU-RAYS AND OTHER SPECIAL ITEMS FROM OUR KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER (UNTIL FEBRUARY 15TH)
Secrets of Blackmoor is a Feature-length documentary about the birth of the “Mother of all Games;” Dungeons & Dragons.